The way we consume information and entertainment is evolving. The internet has changed everything and there’s no going back. But it’s not a process that shows any signs of stopping – or even slowing down. The way we consume media continues to change and adapt at pace.
I’m in my early thirties and I recall a time when getting an encyclopaedia on CD-ROM was a thrill. I remember being amazed that a shelf full of dense books were now available as a single disc. It was cheaper, more up-to-date and allowed for things like little audio clips and even tiny videos to illustrate some entries. It was like something from a science fiction movie.
That notion already seems comically outdated.
Now, there’s a generation of recent and soon-to-be graduates that have never known a world without the world wide web. The days when television schedules dictated what we watched and when are over. The days when record company executives and television programmers decide what entertainment we digest are drawing to a close. Movies are being backed by grand old studios based on five minute, “fan-made” YouTube shorts.
The world of videogames media has not been unaffected. In the UK, games magazines have suffered some closures and some consolidation. Traditional magazine publishers have bought up or backed their own range of internet outlets, of course, but many of the long-standing big names in monthly magazines are disappearing.
The US magazine landscape is even more dire, with GameInformer the only significant survivor – and only then because it was bought up by a retailer (Gamestop) who recognised that a well informed customer base could be an asset to its business.
And now even “traditional” world wide web videogames coverage is coming under attack from yet another new way to consume information and entertainment – online video. Since very early on in the life of the world wide web (even before that, on the internet in the shape of BBS and chat channels), videogames have been written about. Screenshots have been shared and readers have begun the relatively rapid migration from magazines to webpages.
Even a smaller site like TheSixthAxis regularly gets more unique readers in a day than there are issues of the UK’s biggest selling games magazine bought in a month. Huge sites like IGN and Gamespot probably do that in an hour.
Video is growing though, and it’s showing all signs of becoming the default way many people like to consume their videogame coverage on the internet. In our recent reader survey, over a quarter of you said you’d like to see more videos on TheSixthAxis. More than ten per cent said you’d like to see more live streaming of games. That’s significant enough that we’re taking note, of course (more on this soon), but when you also consider that either method of serving content would have been almost unthinkable ten years ago and even almost unworkable five years ago, that’s a significant change in the attitude of gamers hungry for information.
YouTube is massive. Tens of millions of subscribers and many billions of views mean that there’s now a very lucrative industry based around promoting and managing the burgeoning talent that has taken to the service to get their creativity in front of consumers. Companies like Machinima are signing contracts with popular channels and professionally producing their videos but for every YouTube “celebrity” that signs up with a promoter or manager, there are dozens of quickly growing channels packed with new talent and ready to become the next big thing.
The latest craze for videogame coverage is live streaming. We’ve done a few experiments with the format and we hope to do a lot more but we’ve barely scratched the surface.
For many companies, live streaming videogames is what they’re banking on. Gamespot and Giant Bomb’s parent company (CBS Interactive) has recently signed a deal with Twitch.tv, a specialist in videogame streaming and eSports coverage. Twitch sees 23 million unique sets of eyes, watching 6 billion minutes of live streaming videogames every month and it predicts that to increase to 10 billion by this summer (thanks, MCV).
There’s been a tendency among those of us who have been riding the crest of the online coverage of videogames to feel almost smug at the continuing demise of more traditional forms of media. As much as I’ve always loved the world of traditional publishing, I have to admit to being guilty of this myself.
We scoff at the lack of pace many printed outlets display – they’re largely out of date before they’ve even left the printing presses. We lament the efforts they must go to and the deals that are done to secure early or exclusive reviews to keep them a step ahead of digital outlets. We balk at their pricing and we mock the homogeneity of their cover stars or features.
And all the while, our wave has crested too.
The way we consume information and entertainment is evolving. It would be wise for us all to recognise that evolution is not something which stops and waits. Evolution is not something with a zenith. This meteoric rise of online written coverage of videogames is not the end result of a process, it’s simply one bubble in the furiously boiling cauldron of how our consumers like to consume.
We’ll ignore that at our peril.